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A Legal Practitioner and Public Analyst, Mr Peter Chinedum Azubuike has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to replicate the last Edo State election by being magnanimous enough at ensuring conduct of free and fair senatorial bye elections in Imo North and other affected areas on Saturday, this week. He also charged the electoral umpire to give free and fair of the election as her own palliative measure to cushion the effects of COVID-19 and EndSARS protest that rocked the country this year.
He also called on winners to be magnanimous in victory and try to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people.
How do you see the Senatorial bye elections slated to place in Imo North , on Saturday, December 5, 2020?
Well, the Imo North Senatorial contest is a very interesting one in the sense that the zone parades most of the political breeds in I’m State. It is a zone that produced the first executive governor of old Imo State, Late Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, whose leadership was adjudged by political analysts to be the best in that part of the country. It has been argued and has been seen to be the best governor so far, and nobody has rivalled his achievements. So, the election is going to be an interesting political contest. The contest appears to be between Chief Emma Okewulonu of PDP and Senator Ifeanyi Ararume of APC. That is to say it is going to be a health contest. Give it to the two candidates. Ararume had been there at the Senate and I believe he must have his own supporters and those who believe that he will deliver. On the other hand, a lot had equally been heard of Emma Okewulonu. The level of his political campaign is what appears to be massive in attendance to rallies, which many people will say, should be a level of acceptability. I see a situation where there will be a contest that will be very interesting. However, the candidate that commands the support from the people, will definitely carry the day. So, if you look at the building up to the election, the level of campaign and mobilization by the PDP and the fact that it is clouded by litigations and division in the house than APC, one would likely be tempted to give it to PDP. But in politics, it is not over, untill it is over. Even, fews hours before the election, anything can happen. Moreover, anything that would happen that would undermine the will and wishes of the electorates, should not be allowed.
Do you foresee any tension during the poll?
I do not think the there will be any tension at all. That will only happen where the stakeholders refuse to play along and according to the rules.
The APC candidate, Ifeanyi Ararume has litigation, do you think that can affect his chances?
Actually, there are still litigation and legal colouration to Ararume’s candidature, but as we talking now, he is the candidate of APC, unless a superior pronouncement rules or directs otherwise.
What are your expectations on INEC?
In fact, I expect INEC to ensure that all pre election arrangements, with respect to distribution of materials, surveillance of materials, strategic placement and location of electoral officers are well planned and coordinated ahead of time, to avoid friction or situation of controversy where some people will be alleging being disfranchised on the account of late arrival of voting materials and electoral personnel.
In what areas do you think the stakeholders could help to ensure a free and fair election in Imo North Senatorial zone?
Obviously, the people of Imo North, like others, want a free and fair election, and those who will make that possible are the electoral umpire, INEC, security agencies and the political parties, who should play the political game according to the rules. The ought to be free and fair and the people are saying that it must be. I want to charge INEC to give COVID-19 and EndSARS palliative to Nigerians- where the bye elections in form of free and fair election, not bags of rice and beans. The latest Edo State governorship election was adjudged to be one of the best in terms of free fair. Therefore, I urge INEC to replicate the Edo template. I want to believe that where they could do so in other areas, and the people see election and adjudge it to be free and fair, INEC will be better for it. This is because the dwindling electoral profile of the country in terms of protests and complaints, with respect to rigging and electoral malpractices, will be erased. This is an opportunity for the Commission to tell Nigerians and the international community that it can get it right. It is very symbolical. If the United States of America, after conducting their Presidential election, are still having issues of acceptance of results of the election and hand over by the incumbent president and rest of them, then INEC succeeds in conducting a free and fair bye election, I am sure the blacks and White Americans will look towads copying from Nigeria. So, the bye election, is a very good opportunity for Nigeria to raise her profile in the international community that we can get it right.
What is your advice to candidates of the political parties in the election?
I advise who ever that energies as winner to be magnanimous in victory. I want to believe that politics and leaderships should be inclusive venture. If one wins, it is a privilege. So, the person should not begin at that point of victory to him or herself as emperor or conqueror, but as a servant of the people whom who was sent on a message of service. What should pre occupy his mind after being victorious, would be to give back to the electorates dividends of democracy. This is because politics is a social contract. If one is empowered to become President, Governor, Senator, House of Representatives member, House of Assembly member etc, through the will power that is symbolized by their voters cards, it is incumbent that he should deliver because it is a reciprocal philosophy that one should give back to the people that empowered him to go and represent them.Most importantly, the winner should give governance and legislative representation a human face by relating with his people on regular basis and making himself available to the people that elected him.
Could you also advice the people of Imo North Senatorial zone?
I want them to do it right , to get it right. I expect the stakeholders; the candidates, political parties, party agents and voters to bear in mind that what is very patient is the cohesion and unity in Imo North (Okigwe Zone) after the election. Aftermath of the election, should not bring divisive tendencies because the present security situation in Nigeria is not encouraging, to add it up with divisions arising as a fall out of the election. That will not do the people any good . So, I expect that after the election, brothers and sisters should embrace one another and concede defeat with the spirit of sportsmanship and brotherhood.